A charity support network for disabled people has marked its expansion into Scotland with the opening of a new centre by HRH the Princess Royal, writes John Kavanagh.
AbilityNet was formed in 1998 through the merger of The Computability Centre, set up by the BCS, IBM and Birmingham University to advise disabled people, employers and carers on IT, and the Foundation for Communication for the Disabled, which provides systems. The BCS is a trustee, with IBM and Microsoft among the big supporters.
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AbilityNet has six centres in England, some hosted by employers, which together handled 14,000 calls last year to its free helpline (0800 269545). It ran awareness seminars for 3,000 managers and caring professionals, and assessed or trained 1,600 disabled people. It also equipped more than 600 disabled people with IT.
The Scottish centre is hosted by Agilent Technologies - Hewlett-Packard's measurement equipment arm - at South Queensferry, West Lothian.
The Princess Royal was shown round by the centre's manager Andy Clarke and AbilityNet chief executive John Maitland who demonstrated special keyboards, mouse alternatives and voice recognition software.
"She was especially impressed by the speed that AbilityNet consultant Robin Christopherson, who is blind, navigated a screen," Clarke says.